Yesterday, after a conversation about schools with a colleague, I finally went and had a look for the missionary school that my brother and I went to in Papua New Guinea, when we lived in Kainantu up in the East Highland Provinces. And here it is, the Ukarumpa International School or the SIL Missionary School as we knew it. Talking to my mum on Facebook, it is odd how much it has changed, with her memory of it being very much clearer than mine. Certainly the memories of my childhood are only vaguely sparked by the photos therein, but then I guess it has been some thirty years since I was there.
Ukarampu is apparently placed on the traditional fighting grounds for several of the neighbouring tribes. I remember standing there, in a class room, all the doors locked, as a fully fledged tribal battle took place in the school grounds. I remember the school used to have an old broken down fire engine that we used to swarm over and play on. I remember the three week waiting list in the library for the Smurf books when they first came out, and gradually huddling closer and closer to one end of the classroom whilst the sourdough bread we were making stank the room out at the other end.
And I want to go back, have a look, see if anything that I remember still exists, like our house on stilts and the ex-pats 'golf course' across the valley. Or the trees we used to climb along, the valley sides we slid down on flattened cardboard boxes, the long thing grass razor sharp. Or the dusty paths that wended their way from our home to town, bright and hot and potent with memories. I want to stand there and see how much of me still dwells there, and how much is in my head and in my heart.